Saturday, June 30, 2012

WORLD_ Mood pessimistic on Syria peace plans

Mood pessimistic on Syria peace plans

By JOHN HEILPRIN | Associated Press – 4 hrs ago

GENEVA (AP) — Major powers meeting in Geneva have adopted a watered down version of special envoy Kofi Annan's Syria plan that leaves open whether President Bashar Assad can be part of the transition government.


Kofi Annan, Joint Special Envoy

Annan said Saturday "it is for the people of Syria to come to a political agreement." He says "the hard work starts now. We must work together to implement what has been agreed.


British Foreign Minister William

Russia had refused to back a provision that would call for Assad to step down to make way for a unity government.



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WORLD_ Syria crisis talks remain deadlocked

Syria crisis talks remain deadlocked

British foreign secretary William Hague warns of areas of 'difficulty and difference' in Geneva negotiations

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Email Peter Beaumont in Geneva, Saturday 30 June 2012 10.28 BST


The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, arrives at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva. Photograph: Laurent Gillieron/AP

Crisis talks at the United Nations aimed at finding a political resolution to end the violence in Syria remain deadlocked, with the British foreign secretary, William Hague, warning of areas of "difficulty and difference" in the negotiations.

Hopes had been raised in recent days that the conference in Geneva, which was called by the Arab League and UN joint special envoy Kofi Annan, was the best opportunity to find a peaceful solution to an escalating conflict that has claimed more than 15,000 lives, but overnight US and Russia remained divided over the same key issues.

After preparatory talks on Friday ahead of the arrival of foreign ministers of the five permanent members of the security council and Arab states, diplomats were deadlocked over the negotiating text to agree on guidelines and principles for "a Syria-led transition".

The US secretary of state, Hilary Clinton, had held talks in Moscow on her way to Geneva with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, in the hope of finding a breakthrough.

At the heart of the deadlock is the insistence of Russia, which is Syria's most important ally, that Syrians alone should be master of their fate, ruling out an internationally imposed solution.

"There is an opportunity for the international community to be much stronger and act more robustly but we can only do it with the agreement of Russia and China," Hague said as he arrived for the meeting.

"It has always been our view that a stable future for Syria, a stable political process means [President] Assad leaving power as part of an agreement on transitional process," Hague said.

The draft negotiating text for the talks calls for the establishment of a transitional government of national unity with full executive powers, which could include members of Bashar al-Assad's government and the opposition and other groups. It would oversee the drafting of a new constitution and elections.

The stumbling block in reaching an agreement is what happens to Assad. Syria's deeply divided opposition is agreed on one thing – that it is not prepared to participate in a political transition that includes him.

While the negotiating text envisages the exclusion "from government those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation" it is not clear what this would mean for Assad and whether he might remain during a transitional period.

Some diplomats have said this wording is an implicit reference to the need for Assad's exclusion from any future transitional arrangements.

"Ultimately, we want to stop the bloodshed in Syria. If that comes through political dialogue, we are willing to do that," said Khalid Saleh, a spokesman for the Syrian National Council, a coalition of Syrian opposition groups in Istanbul, Turkey.

"We are not willing to negotiate [with] Mr Assad and those who have murdered Syrians. We are not going to negotiate unless they leave Syria."

Although Lavrov had predicted the meeting had a "good chance" of finding a way forward, after a dinner with Clinton before travelling to Switzerland, Russia continued to insist that outsiders could not order a political solution for Syria. The US is adamant that Assad should not be allowed to remain in power at the top of the transitional government.

Despite the difficulties facing the talks, Lavrov said on Friday he felt that there had been movement in the US attitude in the negotiations. He told reporters: "I felt a change in Hillary Clinton's position. There were not ultimatums. Not a word was said that the document we will discuss in Geneva is untouchable."

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ANALYSIS_ Analysis: West struggles to understand Russia's Syria stance

Analysis: West struggles to understand Russia's Syria stance

By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent | Reuters – 22 hrs ago

LONDON (Reuters) - Western states trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are increasingly struggling to deal with, or even understand, Russia's dogged support for him.

Arms deals, Russia's naval base in Tartus and fear of Islamist militancy in a post-Assad Syria are all held up as potential explanations. But Russian officials and some others say that misses the wider point.

They say Moscow's opposition to foreign-backed "regime change" reflects a fundamental disagreement with the West over sovereignty and the rights of states to deal with domestic instability by whatever means necessary.

"The Russian position can be explained by their hostility to any interference in the internal affairs of a country, especially in the current climate, because at home they have things to be worried about," says Denis Bauchard, a former diplomat and expert on the Middle East at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).

Time and time again, Western officials have confidently briefed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was on the brink of dumping his long-term ally, only to be disappointed.

On Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and counterparts from other major powers are due to meet in Geneva.

Once again, diplomats from several Western countries were predicting a shift. For the first time, they said, Russia had agreed with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's plan and its requirement for a gradual transition of power.

But late on Thursday, it emerged that Russia had put forward amendments that the United States, Britain and France said were unacceptable.

At a Group of 20 summit in Mexico this month, British Prime Minister David Cameron was embarrassed after suggesting that Putin had agreed Assad should go, only to have Putin himself dismiss the idea.

French President Francois Hollande talked at length about the importance of winning Russia over, but had an awkward press conference with Putin in May having clearly failed to do so.


For every argument Hollande made before the assembled media, Putin had a counterargument. When Hollande asked if Russia would take Assad in exile, Putin replied that the Assad family had been invited to Paris much more often than to Moscow. While it is not clear that was true, Hollande still had to squirm.

Putin said the ousting of leaders did not necessarily lead to peace. He cited the case of Libya, where Moscow believes it was tricked by the West into supporting military intervention.

"Has it become safer there? Where are we moving? Is there an answer?" he asked.

Western states are still hoping that a series of military reverses for Assad will begin to tip the balance and force Putin to drop him. But it may not be that easy.

A death toll in Syria of well over 10,000 seems unlikely on its own to change Putin's mind. Estimates vary widely of the number of dead in Chechnya - a conflict in which he was involved as prime minister and president - but often exceed 100,000.

Rights activists and other witnesses say that conflict often involved artillery attacks on civilian areas, massacres and disappearances: potential war crimes now being reported in Syria.

Mindful of rising anti-Putin protests, not to mention separatist worries in the Caucasus, leaders in Moscow - and perhaps also Beijing, which has its own worries about unrest in Tibet, northwest China and many other areas - fear they might themselves have to adopt similar tactics again one day.

But it is the growing suggestion that Western democracies in particular might intervene militarily or otherwise to help such uprisings that really unnerves Russia's leaders, many believe. The 'Orange', 'Rose' and 'Tulip' revolutions in former Soviet Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan have added to such concerns.

"Putin has spent the last decade obsessing about 'color revolutions'," says Stephen Sestanovich, principal State Department officer for the former Soviet Union between 1997 and 2001 and now senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"He hates the idea that the international community has anything to say about who holds power in a country whose leaders have done something awful. He tends to sympathize with those leaders."


It can also be argued that the price of a revolution such as Syria's is simply too high.

"Russia probably knows the true cost of revolutions better than most other countries," Lavrov wrote in the Huffington Post on June 15.

"We are fully aware that revolutionary changes are always accompanied by social and economic setbacks as well as by loss of human life and suffering. This is exactly why we support an evolutionary and peaceful way of enacting long-awaited changes in the Middle East and North Africa."

Russian officials say they are not wedded to Assad but want stability to return, and have so far not seen a strategy that would achieve this.

There is little doubt that the situation in Syria also feeds into wider Russian concerns.

Many Western diplomats suspect Russia fears that Syria after Assad could become a haven for Islamists, not least those fighting Russia in Chechnya.

While Russia's naval base at Tartus is regarded as little more than a refueling stop, it does give Russia a Mediterranean harbor that could prove valuable if trouble with Ukraine or Turkey obstructed the operations of its Black Sea Fleet.

In Alawite-run Syria, and perhaps to a lesser extent in Shi'ite Iran, Russia also has a regional counterweight to an increasingly vocal bloc of Sunni Muslim-led countries allied with Washington, primarily Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.

Some also suspect that Russia may see frustrating Western interests and embarrassing its leaders as an end in itself as it looks to reassert itself as a global power - or at least as a useful short-term tactic until a clearer picture emerges.

"In the West we often exaggerate Putin's dictatorial side," says former U.S. official Sestanovich.

"In Russia, many criticize him for indecisiveness. It may be that in Syria he's actually confused about what to do, and is slowly concluding that Assad has had it. That's the hopeful interpretation: Putin the conflicted ditherer."

(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations, Gleb Bryanski in Moscow, John Irish in Paris, Tom Miles in Geneva; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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Friday, June 29, 2012

ANALYSIS_ Evolving tactics of Syrian rebels

25 June 2012 Last updated at 11:00 GMT

Evolving tactics of Syrian rebels

By Ian Pannell BBC News, northern Syria

Inside Syria with the rebel fighters

As violence appears to have escalated in Syria, the BBC's Ian Pannell reports on the situation in the north of the country, where he has just spent the last two weeks with some of the rebel groups in Idlib province.

The commander had "gone to ground" and we sat for endless tense hours in a breathless heat waiting for news.

For two weeks, we watched the Idlib Martyrs Brigade plan operations against the military and shabiha militias, but we had witnessed only a handful of them, hearing vague rumours of something "bigger" in the offing.

One fighter stopped by to see us, but he, like everyone else, refused to tell us what was happening.

For all their flaws, secrecy is one area where the rebels are disciplined, but the hint we craved was there: "If you don't see the commander for ages, it means he's planning something big," he said.

Two hours later, a truck arrived, and we were bustled on board and driven to a remote farmhouse.

Not only was the operation happening, but also it was large, ambitious, and we were to see the biggest group of fighters we have ever seen in a year of travelling surreptitiously into northern Syria.

Dozens became scores became hundreds, armed with Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), homemade hand grenades and IEDs (improvised explosive devices). The fighters advanced towards a military checkpoint and base in Armanaz.

What followed was an intense firefight - bullets and tank rounds searing overhead as the rebels tried and ultimately failed to overrun the base.

An official government press release said "terrorist gangs" had swarmed the town and that dozens of fighters were killed. We witnessed only one fatality amongst the fighters and a handful of injuries.

Popular support

What it showed though is that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is becoming more capable, more organised and more coherent than we have seen before.

The Idlib Martyrs Brigade is a confederation of 12 battalions and hundreds of fighters, and it now co-ordinates attacks with other groups in the north.

For now, the Assad government has lost effective control of vast swathes of Idlib province and parts of Aleppo province in the north. The key word is "effective". This is still a comparative shift rather than a sea change, and it is certainly not irreversible.

The government can redeploy large numbers of troops where it wants (although no doubt at the risk of leaving other areas exposed); it can shell from afar with impunity (which was a daily occurrence); it controls the skies, and when helicopter gunships are up, the rebels have to hide. And key urban centres like Idlib and Aleppo are under its firm grip, albeit with a limited FSA presence.

But in practice, these rural areas are too large and the population centres too spread out for the government to effectively control it all.

The rebels know every inch of this land, the millions of acres of fields and olive groves and the dirt tracks. And their increasingly large network provides real-time intelligence on troop movements.

Perhaps most importantly, they appear to enjoy the sympathy of much of the local population.

New weapons

As the government attempts to extinguish fires in 1,000 places, it bears some similarities to watching the British and American fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

When the FSA is squeezed hard in one area, it simply moves to another and quickly moves back to reclaim unoccupied land as government forces move elsewhere.

The armed opposition has received some new weapons.

Reports indicate two shipments entered the country recently, paid for by "foreign benefactors in the Gulf", and that they were handed to those groups who are affiliated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, although we have seen no proof of this.

What we did see was some new weapons, a few heavier machine guns, more ammunition and a lot of homemade ordnance.

One commander told us he was now able to buy small arms from "the mafia", although their ability to do so is limited by a lack of funds. But borders that once limited the movement of men and munitions now certainly appear to be more porous.

The FSA knows it is infinitely weaker than the enemy it faces, so it is starting to embrace the tactics of asymmetric guerrilla warfare.

In Aleppo and Idlib provinces, the fighting is escalating, with unverified reports from activists that more than 200 people were killed in clashes and attacks over the last weekend alone.

Tactics are not just evolving; they are becoming more ruthless.

Last Friday, government officials accused the rebels of carrying out a massacre in Darat Izza, abducting, killing and mutilating 25 men. Activists said the victims had been shabiha militiamen.

It is difficult to know how this ends, but more violence, death and suffering is inevitable.

And whatever side the majority of Syrians who are not party to this conflict are on, they are caught up in a fight they did not choose and one that feels like it is spiralling out of control.

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WORLD_ Syria: Can Geneva meeting wield fresh hope for the crisis?

29 June 2012 Last updated at 16:08 GMT
Syria: Can Geneva meeting wield fresh hope for the crisis?

By Imogen Foulkes BBC News, Geneva

The meeting in Geneva will try to come up with a new strategy to end violence in Syria

As the world's great powers gather in Geneva to discuss the conflict in Syria, they are agreed on one thing: the violence must stop.

For 16 months, government troops and opposition forces have been fighting.

Thousands of civilians have died and thousands more have lost their homes in a conflict which has, UN human rights investigators say, been characterised by widespread rights violations such as torture, revenge killings and abduction.

In their latest report, the investigators warn that the conflict has now spread right across the country, and that sectarian violence is becoming more common.

Obviously no-one wants such a situation to continue. The problem is that the big powers do not, yet at any rate, agree on how this conflict can be brought to an end.


Kofi Annan has outlined a plan for the transition of power in Syria

The aim of the Geneva meeting is to try to get Kofi Annan's six-point plan back on track. In fact the plan has never really been on track. The very first point on Mr Annan's list, a ceasefire, has never been observed.

Now Mr Annan hopes he can get agreement on a peaceful transition of power, something also envisaged in his six-point plan which called for "an inclusive Syrian-led political process to address the legitimate aspirations and concerns of the Syrian people".

Mr Annan says he is optimistic that the Geneva meeting will come up with a strategy, but just hours before the senior diplomats were due to arrive, the signs were not good.

Remember, this meeting almost did not happen at all because the big powers could not even agree on who should be invited.

Mr Annan, Russia and China had all suggested that Iran, as Syria's neighbour and a regional power, should be at the negotiating table. The United States and Britain said no, accusing Iran of unhelpful meddling in Syria's conflict.

In the end Iran was left off the invitation list, and Russia agreed to come anyway, a compromise many observers viewed as a positive sign.

But now there is another, and even bigger, stumbling block. Kofi Annan has apparently prepared a draft document outlining how a transition of power could happen, with the creation of a unity government followed by multi-party elections.

But who will be included in this unity government?

Russia believes the original "inclusive, Syrian led process" mentioned in the six-point plan means the international community does not have the right to exclude anyone, not even President Bashar al-Assad and his most fervent supporters in the government.

Mr Annan's draft plan, however, reportedly suggests that a new transitional government "could include members of the present government and the opposition, and other groups, but would exclude from government those whose continued presence and participation would undermine the credibility of the transition and jeopardise stability and reconciliation".

Both the United States and Britain believe that implies that President Assad would indeed be excluded - a precondition, imposed as it would be by foreign powers, that Russia almost certainly will not accept.

Key questions

Behind Russia's reluctance to abandon President Assad completely lie Moscow's concerns that its considerable financial interests in Syria could, perhaps literally, go up in smoke in a power change that could be chaotic and violent.

And, closer to home, Russia has its own problems in the Caucasus; the republics of Dagestan and Ingushetia are restive.

Various groups, including some Islamic extremists, are challenging Moscow's power.

Should this tension turn into something more violent, Russia does not want to see a precedent set by the situation in Syria, in which the international community is able to impose a solution which excludes the existing government.

But in demanding that President Assad step down, Britain and the United States must also face questions that so far they cannot answer.

Who will take power in Syria? The opposition is fragmented, and may not have the necessary unity to try to form a government.

How would multi-party elections be organised? Would UN peacekeepers be required? If so, who would supply them? Britain and the United States would be reluctant, given their long commitment to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, events on the ground in Syria seem to be overtaking the diplomacy in Geneva.

The opposition has said it will not participate in any transition which includes the current government, while President Assad has said he will not accept any solution imposed from outside.

And the fighting continues, with heavy shelling reported in the suburbs of Damascus.

"Both sides are still convinced they can win militarily," said one weary diplomat in Geneva.

Until both sides are persuaded otherwise, the people of Syria are unlikely to get any relief.

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OPINION_ Robert Fisk: Western agreement 'could leave Syria in Assad's hands for two more years'

Robert Fisk: Western agreement 'could leave Syria in Assad's hands for two more years'

Special Report: Need for oil routes buys time, claims key Damascus figure

Robert Fisk Friday 29 June 2012
The Independent

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria may last far longer than his opponents believe – and with the tacit acceptance of Western leaders anxious to secure new oil routes to Europe via Syria before the fall of the regime. According to a source intimately involved in the possible transition from Baath party power, the Americans, Russians and Europeans are also putting together an agreement that would permit Assad to remain leader of Syria for at least another two years in return for political concessions to Iran and Saudi Arabia in both Lebanon and Iraq.

For its part, Russia would be assured of its continued military base at Tartous in Syria and a relationship with whatever government in Damascus eventually emerges with the support of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Russia’s recent concession – that Assad may not be essential in any future Syrian power structure – is part of a new understanding in the West which may accept Assad’s presidency in return for an agreement that prevents a further decline into civil war.

Information from Syria suggests that Assad’s army is now “taking a beating” from armed rebels, who include Islamist as well as nationalist forces; at least 6,000 soldiers are now believed to have been murdered or killed in action since the rebellion against Assad began 17 months ago. There are even unconfirmed reports that during any one week up to a thousand Syrian fighters are under training by mercenaries in Jordan at a base used by Western authorities for personnel seeking ‘anti-terrorist’ security exercises.

The US-Russian negotiations – easy to deny, and somewhat cynically hidden behind the current mutual accusations of Hillary Clinton and her Russian opposite number, Sergei Lavrov – would mean that the superpowers would acknowledge Iran’s influence over Iraq and its relationship with its Hezballah allies in Lebanon, while Saudi Arabia – and Qatar - would be encouraged to guarantee Sunni Muslim rights in Lebanon and in Iraq. Baghdad’s emergence as a centre of Shia power has caused much anguish in Saudi Arabia whose support for the Sunni minority in Iraq has hitherto led only to political division.

But the real object of talks between the world powers revolves around the West’s determination to secure oil and particularly gas from the Gulf states without relying upon supplies from Moscow. “Russia can turn off the spigot to Europe whenever it wants – and this gives it tremendous political power,” the source says. “We are talking about two fundamental oil routes to the West – one from Qatar and Saudi Arabia via Jordan and Syria and the Mediterranean to Europe, another from Iran via Shia southern Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean and on to Europe. This is what matters. This is why they will be prepared to let Assad last for another two years, if necessary. They would be perfectly content with that. And Russia will have a place in the new Syria.”

Diplomats who are still discussing these plans should, of course, be treated with some scepticism. It is one thing to hear political leaders excoriating the Syrian regime for its abuse of human rights and massacres – quite another to realise that Western diplomats are quite prepared to put this to one side for the proverbial ‘bigger picture’ which, as usual in the Middle East, means oil and gas supplies. They are prepared to tolerate Assad’s presence until the end of the crisis, rather than insisting his departure is the start of the end. The Americans apparently say the same. Now Russia believes that stability is more important than Assad himself.

It is clear that Bashar al-Assad should have gone ahead with extensive reforms when his father Hafez died in 2000. At that stage, according to Syrian officials, Syria’s economy was in a far better state than Greece is today. And the saner voices influencing Assad’s leadership were slowly deprived of their power. One official close to the president called him during the height of last year’s fighting to say that “Homs is burning”. Assad’s reaction was to refuse all personal conversation with the official in future, insisting on only SMS messages. “Assad no longer has personal power over all that happens in Syria,” the informant says. “It’s not because he doesn’t want to – there’s just too much going on all over the country for one man to keep in touch with it all.”

What Assad is still hoping for, according to Arab military veterans, is a solution a-l’Algerie. After the cancellation of democratic elections in Algeria, its army and generals – ‘le pouvoir’ to Algerians – fought a merciless war against rebels and Islamist guerrillas across the country throughout the 1990s, using torture and massacre to retain government power but leaving an estimated 200,000 dead among their own people. Amid this crisis, the Algerian military actually sent a delegation to Damascus to learn from Hafez el-Assad’s Syrian army how it destroyed the Islamist rebellion in Hama – at a cost of up to 20,000 dead – in 1982. The Algerian civil war – remarkably similar to that now afflicting Assad’s regime – displayed many of the characteristics of the current tragedy in Syria: babies with their throats cut, families slaughtered by mysterious semi-military ‘armed groups’, whole towns shelled by government forces.

And, much more interesting to Assad’s men, the West continued to support the Algerian regime with weapons and political encouragement throughout the 1990s while huffing and puffing about human rights. Algeria’s oil and gas reserves proved more important than civilian deaths – just as the Damascus regime now hopes to rely upon the West’s desire for via-Syria oil and gas to tolerate further killings. Syrians say that Jamil Hassan, the head of Air Force intelligence in Syria is now the ‘killer’ leader for the regime – not so much Bashar’s brother Maher whose 4th Division is perhaps being given too much credit for suppressing the revolt. It has certainly failed to crush it.

The West, meanwhile has to deal with Syria’s contact man, Mohamed Nassif, perhaps Assad’s closest political adviser. The question remains, however, as to whether Bashar al-Assad – however much he fails to control military events on the ground – really grasps the epic political importance of what is going on in his country. Prior to the rebellion, European and Turkish leaders were astonished to hear from him that Sunni forces in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli were trying “to create a Salafist state” that would threaten Syria. How this extraordinary assertion – based, presumably on the tittle-tattle of an intelligence agent – could have formulated itself in Assad’s mind, remained a mystery.



Brigitta Badazzini • 3 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateThe question remains essential: Who gives the massive amount of funds needed to sustain this terrorist "revolution". You need a lot of ammo to kill 6000 well protected troops.

tyke87 • an hour ago• parent
−+ Flag as inappropriateUSrael

49niner • 5 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateIn truth, the outside world has proved ineffective in influencing the situation in Syria. The rebels are a motley coalition of forces opposed to the regime. No Libyan scenario here, not least because Russia has quite a lot a stake in maintaining the status quo. I would hope that we have all learned the limitations of "regime change" from the Iraq debacle next door. It is one thing to offer humanitarian aid and peacekeeping forces, which is properly the domain of the UN. But telling a sovereign nation who should wield power used to be called by that ugly word "imperialism". The continued cynicism of the major powers can be summed up once again by the phrase "oil and gas".

beppogatto • 4 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriate49niner rightly observes: "The rebels are a motley coalition of forces opposed to the regime." But why does no-one - journalist or commenter - explain why British and American special services are active in Syria?

Taleah Prince • 2 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateAssad's so-called 'extraordinary assertion' that a salafist state was being created in Lebanon was perfectly correct - as is the current 'activists' in Syria... aka. the Muslim Brotherhood who have the practice written in black and white that of sharia law with a theocracy as governance. Nowhere in the Brotherhoods diatribe do we here that they want to create a fair democracy. In fact the word democracy should never be used in the same sentence with Islam. The Brotherhood - also called the FSA - are using violence, murder and torture in order to depose the secular government and install their own doctrine for a middle east caliphate and the west support this... apparently.

The Courier • 2 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriate"Algeria’s oil and gas reserves proved more important than civilian deaths – just as the Damascus regime now hopes to rely upon the West’s desire for via-Syria oil and gas to tolerate further killings." Just about sums up the hypocrisy of the West - same thing happened to the Kurds.....human rights is always of the last concern and the quickest to be removed from the negotiating table!

EliteStryver • 4 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateAnyone who has read the Project for the New American Century PNAC will have a good grasp of the geopolitics driving events from North Africa, through the Middle East to Central Asia. Essentially, it's all about America's attempt to achieve monopoly control of oil/gas fields, actual and planned pipelines, in addition to transport choke points, to control the world economy. It's the only way the Americans can maintain, if not expand, their consumption of the world's diminishing resources at the expense of everyone else - including Europe, their greatest competitor. PNAC also provides a useful perspective for the on-going financial turmoil, which again is America's attempt to impose neoliberal economic doctrine and achieve monopoly control of world banking. Those who prefer detail can concentrate their energy in a hopeless attempt to understand a myriad of seemingly unrelated local issues like Syria.

Mark • 10 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateAfghanistan was invaded so a pro western govt would protect pipelines. I dont know why saudi arabia worries about sunnis in iraq when all the suicide bombings target shias. In lebanon sunnis support hezbollah. Only extreme salafist who dont even believe in democracy feel persecuted. What about Bahrain ? Another salafist dictatorship Same thing in syria only difference no boots on the ground jusy CIA Also enough properganda... Baby throats?? . Syria is becoming Northern Ireland during the troubles, sectarian malitais to blame not the goverment

stonedwolf • 9 hours ago• parent
−+ Flag as inappropriateWhich pipeline? And yes, mostly the trouble was paramilitary gangs. Sixty percent Republican, thirty percent Loyalist, and ten percent Security Forces, and that doesn't even begin to take into account that mostly the paramilitaries planned attacks against civilians, and the Security Forces targeted terrorists, Bloody Sunday being a notable exception.

Old Git Tom • 7 hours ago• parent
−+ Flag as inappropriateN Ireland Republicans blame security forces (spooks) for some of the bombings & shootings. They allege that the counter-insurgency strategy of gen. 'Ming the Merciless' Kitson was to stir as much mayhem as possible. True or not, that is clearly NATO/Pentagon strategy in North Africa.

OGT wildejamey • 6 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateMaybe. But time's running out for Russia and China and their self-interested blind eye to the massacre of the Syrian population. Once the US election is out of the way, Nato will have a much freer hand to side-line the redundant UN.

Tala LaFarouq • 5 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateWas this report prepared by Robert Fisk or Loveday Morris? I could swear it was the latter. I much preferred the story of " In Tripoli, posters of martyrs in the market place say it all – and more are on the way". Nevertheless, if the source is from Damascus, then need not bother debunk it. The pipelines stories are best left for a James Bond movie. I wonder if Greece is in so much trouble because of a pipe line? How about the reason the US didn't jump to help the Brits in WW-II early on was for a pipeline? The conspiracists will never dull from their usual excuses but it is politics and humanity like we know it. How many people you know will risk losing some of their furniture possessions to help a neighbour? The fact that Syria doesn't have much Oil is the primary reason why no one cares for how long this drags on.

EliteStryver • 4 hours ago• parent
−+ Flag as inappropriateSarcastic and shallow analysis in an attempt to muddy the water.

jahkemet • 2 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateThe Syrian President must be admired for his guts. There are no winners in this. The entire region is being radicalised from Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq etc. It will soon come to Saudia Arabia. Then we will see if the USA will call for regime change there and welcome the radicals. A region so radicalised will be a huge threat to Israel and Western Interests. For this we must give thanks to Jah.

Argovius • 2 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateI mostly like Fisk's columns, his observations are usually accurate but from time to time his analysis misses the point completely. I dont think the fact that the West is standing back has anything to do with "Oil routes" but more to do with a) lacking political will [US elections] and b) a true fear that the whole of Syria will descend in utter chaos & civil war (which is something Fisk mentioned himself a few columns ago).

Poor buggers EliteStryver • 2 hours ago• parent
−+ Flag as inappropriateThe only reason action in Syria is protracted is that the US wishes to avoid being branded the world's worst Imperialist. So, until Netanyahu runs out of patience, the US will continue to use proxies. In Syria's case this is Nato, especially Turkey, in addition to mercenaries from just about anywhere.

• 3 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateIf Bob wants to think outside the box, how about the abolition of Lebanon and Israel? One state was created to benefit the Christian communities and French merchants now has a declining Christian population; a re-construction of the two countries would reduce the Shi'a population and boost the Christian, with the Sunna as majority -but culturally there isn't much to choose between them only Lebanon has a daft 'confessional' political system which guarantees seats in parliament on the basis of religious identity, but which simultaneously means somne jobs will never go to Christians, or Shia'a or Sunna or Druze etc. Israel as a purely 'Jewish' state is a nonsense as so many non-Jews live there who have rights no different from Jews, and the dissolution into a new state with all the benefits that Israel has would transform politics in the region. Come to think of it, perhaps Turkey will admit that it stole the entire province of Alexandretta (they call it Hatay) in 1938 and 'return' it to where it should have been in 1918, in the Arab world. Egypt can then give the new Palestine a chunk of the Sinai desert; the Egyptians, Palestinians, Israelis and the 'New Lebanon' form a consortium to exploit the mostly gas reserves of the eastern mediterranean, and it will be peace in our time, and prosperity for all....the one thing people like doing if they are not killing each other is making money....

bandraboy • 8 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateYes yes its all the Wests fault as usual. Seriously Fisk don't you ever get tired of writing the same old garbage about the West and Israel? Oil pipelines through Syria from Iran. Thats a new one even for you. Forgetting of course that Iran and Syria don't share a border.

takeoman • 5 hours ago• parent
−+ Flag as inappropriateAs usual you either didn't read or else understand the article.

theredcomyn • 5 hours ago
−+ Flag as inappropriateFisk finally timidly implicates Russia, but only in the context of Russia-US negotiations. As if the US has an equal hand to play in Syria. He is clealy unwilling to call out Russia as the player at the table with the aces to play. Why is it that Fisk can't show some backbone when it is time for some blunt criticism of the the Russsians ? He has no problem spewing his vitriol at other subjects of his commentary.

EliteStryver • 3 hours ago• parent
It is difficult to criticize Russia seeing that America's plan is to emasculate the country economically and prevent it from supplying Europe with energy. Indeed, any European/Russian cooperation is a nightmare for the US.



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